In 2016, reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have increased for the first time in 10 years.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, there have been approximately 1.5 million cases of chlamydia, 400,000 cases of gonorrhea and 24,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis reported in 2015 alone.
In Washington County, gonorrhea and chlamydia are the most common types of sexually transmitted diseases, affecting 203 and 41 people per 100,000 respectively, which is lower than the state and national averages.
According to Pam Williams, the center manager of Student Health Services, at ETSU, gonorrhea and chlamydia are also the most common STDs diagnosed.
Despite an abundance of testing available, many cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea go undiagnosed since they are not often accompanied by symptoms.
While STDs can affect anyone, young women and gay or bisexual men are at greatest risk for infection.
For young women, there are more serious, long term consequences to their reproductive health if an STD is left undiagnosed, such as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
Cognitive syphilis affects babies, as the undiagnosed, untreated syphilis can be passed to them by their mother.
Syphilis rates among men who have sex with men, or MSM, have been increasing since at least the year 2000 and account for 83 percent of reported cases in men where the sex of the partner is known. Currently, syphilis is the only STD that asks for disclosure of the sex of the patient’s partner.
There is evidence that gonorrhea and chlamydia are on the rise as well. However, there is a lack of research within the LGBTQ community.
It has been found that 51 percent of syphilis cases among MSM are also HIV positive. Syphilis causes genital sores, which makes transmitting and acquiring HIV easier.
The increase in STDs has been attributed to lack of education, lack of access and fear of stigmatization, especially among MSM. STDs are viewed as a shortcoming of certain populations or people, but STDs are a risk every sexually active person takes.
Use of condoms and regular testing are a way to prevent the transmission and acquisition of STDs in all people.
While treatable, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis can have lasting consequences and be easily spread to partners.
ETSU’s Health Services, located in Roy. S. Nicks Hall, provides free information and testing for STDs. Each Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the atrium, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance distributes condoms to students, faculty and staff.
H.E.R.O.E.S. distributes condoms at all of their events and in their office, as well. In the coming weeks, H.E.R.O.E.S. will also have dental dams and internal condoms.
There are resources here, and the ETSU community is urged to take advantage of them.